~ 23 July 2004 ~

Finding Our Founding Unfounded

All the hubbub about constitutional amendments, gay marriage, the pledge of allegiance, the ten commandments, and the like has the country in a understandable turmoil when it comes to religion in public life. Those of us who side with tradition and the morality of those who came before us stand against the ever-rising tide of those who consider themselves the progressive pilgrims of the age.

Arguments abound, and from both sides the thoughtful and the ignorant make their cases. If you’ve read this blog for any time at all, you’ll know that I side with a generally conservative view of culture informed by a biblical Christian worldview. I happen to think that the biblical worldview is the most intellectually (as well as morally) sound. I also think that much of the country still holds “traditional values” dear, Christian or not—as traditionalists almost always outnumber believers.

In making the stand against such a massive cultural change, however, many use a peculiar tactic that is seldom helpful to the debate. The argument goes something like this: the founders of our country set out to make this a Christian nation, therefore we shouldn’t [fill in the blank with your favorite element of the liberal agenda]. Case closed, right?

Not so fast. The problem with such reasoning is that the conclusion does not follow the premise. So what if the founders of the country were Christian? The Jollyblogger (who writes a jolly good blog, by the way) phrases it well in his excellent post on America’s status as a Christian nation:

…in our anti-authority, postmodern age, most folks aren’t going to be persuaded by arguments about the Christian roots of America.

Americans should base their morality on the concrete and the real–on that which eclipses time, trend, and mood. The founding perspective of the Framers is indeed of historical significance, but something is not right or wrong simply because the founders may have believed it. The founding fathers had their own problems–the practice of slavery, though not without opposition, fell well within the realm of the Constitution for the bulk of a century.

The benefit of having George Washington on one’s side goes only so far. We who speak in the public square from a biblical worldview need to do better than to simply point to men in wigs wielding feather styli. We must first and foremost point to the truth that drove such men to act so boldly.

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